Last week I wrote about the three main ways that I find inspiration - other than sitting around and waiting for it to strike. I called these approaches "Look Farther", "Look Closer", and "Look Two Places At Once" - today we'll go a bit more in depth into the first one: finding inspiration by getting outside of your normal life and being exposed to new things.
I read about an author (I can't remember which!) who started writing everyday at the same time - and stopped everyday at the same time. It sounds counter-productive. Why would you interrupt any flow that you had gotten into? Don't we hear stories of artists who shut out the outside world to power through their projects? Perhaps there's a time and a place for that. But this guy firmly believed that by cutting off his creative working time each day, he would be forced to go do other things...you know, actually live his life...and that he would come back the next day not only with more to write about, but more excited to do it.
If you're stuck for inspiration, think about whether you might also have been stuck in an uninspiring routine lately. Have you experienced anything new that gives your mind something fresh to chew on, or anything beautiful that feeds your soul? As much as I might like to, I've learned that I can't sit at home and churn out awesome lyrics and music like a factory. It's important to shake things up, and there are a lot of ways you can do that deliberately in your hunt for inspiration:
Set aside time to go for walks. Moving around and being out in the world is a refreshing change from being cooped up trying to work at home. It also makes it much easier for the universe to give you little stories and surprises - bumping into a friend, witnessing a kid do something adorable, or simply invoking any mood that's more interesting than "me sitting at my desk". The melody and a lot of the words for "Agatha" came to me when I was out for a walk on a bit of a grey day with some light snow. Just that was enough to set the tone, and make the space in my being, for a beautiful, nostalgic song.
Read or watch things you usually wouldn't. A lot of us stick to certain genres of media - and there's nothing wrong with that - but I definitely find that branching out and exposing yourself to something different can get the cogs of inspiration moving, and you may end up discovering something new you like as well. Sometimes I go to the library and just pick things off the shelf at random - and suddenly I'll be immersed in the world of precious gems or ancient Egypt or something, and briefly I get to experience life from a new perspective.
Explore a new part of the place you live, or even better, go traveling if you can. New places and new cultures open up your eyes in ways that nothing else can. Not only that, but if you go on a long enough adventure you're bound to come away with some great stories to tell. I recently spent over a year wandering nomadically around five continents and I'm still reeling from all the things I experienced and learned - more about that in a future post!
We're in this to make music - so get exposed to loads of music. Without realizing it we can often be stuck in the same circles of what artists we've always listened to, and even our friends or media outlets that we follow in our social feeds will keep us locked into a limited range of what's new out there. Why not check out a show for a local artist you've never heard before? Or browse various tags on Bandcamp or Soundcloud? Hearing something you've never heard before can open your ears up to ideas and approaches you might not have otherwise considered. I went down an internet wormhole of island music one day and ended up on a video of a guy building steel drums; I thought those sounds were so cool I ended up composing an entire EP around them.
These are some of the ways I try to keep things fresh and be regularly exposed to new ideas and experiences - what are yours?